Dave Allen's life to become BBC film | With Games of Thrones star Aidan Gillen

Dave Allen's life to become BBC film

With Games of Thrones star Aidan Gillen

The BBC is shooting a Dave Allen biopic starring Game of Thrones actor Aidan Gillen, Chortle can reveal.

Dave Allen At Peace's all-star cast also includes Gillan's Thrones co-star Conleth Hill as the comedian's tragic brother, John, and Tommy Tiernan as his father, with Line of Duty's Joanne Crawford playing his mother.

Simon Day, Pauline McLynn, Robert Bathurst, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Star Wars actor Ian McElhinny are among those making cameos in the one-hour BBC Two film.

It has been written by Stephen Russell, who previously penned the BBC dramatisations We're Doomed: The Dad's Army Story and Hattie, about the life of Hattie Jacques. 

Filming begins this month in Northern Ireland, with the drama paying homage to Allen's television stand-up by having the comic reflect on his formative years and showbusiness career from his famous bar stool, while flashbacks mimic the irreverent style of his sketches.

Tracing the Irish comedian’s life from childhood and performing as a Butlin's Redcoat, At Peace will explore how Allen was shaped by the tragic loss of his father, brother … and infamously, finger as well as telling how he survived the Roman Catholic Church's wrath, IRA death threats and a ban by Irish and Australian television, only to have his television career end in controversy when he said 'fuck' in an innocuous joke.

It will be directed by Father Ted and Quacks helmer Andy De Emmony, who previously made the BBC's Kenneth Williams biopic Fantabulosa.

Best known for playing the scheming Lord Baelish in Game of Thrones, Gillan made his name in the Channel 4 drama Queer as Folk before gaining an international following as Councilman Carcetti in HBO's The Wire.

BBC comedy chief Shane Allen said: 'Dave Allen defined and pushed at the boundaries of where television comedy were set and paved the way for modern stand-up to tackle controversial themes and taboos. This film explores what shaped his trail-blazing career and celebrates this hugely popular comedian who ridiculed authority figures with a twinkle in his eye, a glass of whiskey and the most talked about finger in comedy history.'

BBC Two controller Patrick Holland added: 'Stephen Russell has written a wonderful script that is surprising, innovative and poignant, exploring the people and forces that went into making Dave Allen the comic genius he was.  With Aidan Gillen leading a stellar cast, this promises to be a real treat.'

Allen was the subject of a 2013 BBC Two documentary, God's Own Comedian, having previously reflected upon his work for the corporation in the six-part, 1998 retrospective, The Unique Dave Allen.

Born David Tynan O'Mahony in Dublin in 1936, he was profoundly affected by the death of his father when he was 12, as he would be by John's alcoholism and passing later in life. He moved to London at 19 and began performing stand-up after his spell at Butlins, changing his name to Allen to place him alphabetically at the top of an agent's list.

He made his first television appearance in 1959 on the BBC talent show New Faces but initially established himself as a comedian and talk show host in Australia. He returned to the UK in 1964  and signed with the BBC in 1968, fronting his own show until 1990. His controversial sketches included him portraying the Pope doing a striptease to on the steps of St Peter's and priests speaking like Daleks through electronic confessionals.

He lost the top of his left forefinger above the middle knuckle after catching it in a machine cog but enjoyed inventing stories throughout his career to explain the loss.

In 1998 he said: 'The hierarchy of everything in my life has always bothered me. I’m bothered by power. People, whoever they might be, whether it’s the government, or the policeman in the uniform, or the man on the door – they still irk me a bit. From school, from the first nun that belted me— people used to think of the nice sweet little ladies … they used to knock the fuck out of you, in the most cruel way that they could… The priests were the same. And I sit and watch politicians with great cynicism, total cynicism.'

Allen died peacefully in his sleep in London in 2005.

Dave Allen At Peace is being produced by Brett Wilson for Darlow Smithson Productions, who also made We're Doomed. The executive producers are Charlotte Surtees and Emily Dalton.

Here's a clip of Allen talking about his introduction to religion:

- by Jay Richardson

Published: 19 Sep 2017

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